Posted by Spencer Koch | Posted in Entertainment Guide | Posted on 27-07-2011
Tags: Melody Tent, Tent
HYANNIS The hardest working man in show business, now that James Brown has left the world’s stage, is probably Elvis Costello. At the Cape Cod Melody Tent on Wednesday night, Costello tore through two straight hours of songs with hardly a breath between them, and just a wave at an intermission, before launching into an extended encore.
He’s 56, but Costello hasn’t let time dim his love of rock n’ roll or his energy on stage. He kicked off the night with a rocking rendition of Heart of the City. There’s lots of attitude with Costello, but it’s the kind that says grab a guitar and play your heart out.
And so it was only fitting he sang Radio Radio, where every one of those late night stations playing songs bringing tears to me eyes, followed closely by the melodic, swinging, Everyday I Write the Book. Costello, born in London as Declan MacManus, is the songwriter’s songwriter.
He’s been performing for nearly 40 years and has experimented with practically every song style from a collaboration with pop songwriter Burt Bacharach to classical music, bluegrass, Irish punk, and others. He has quite a lengthy list of songs to request from and he let audience members (all female) pick the genre by slamming a big wooden hammer and ringing the bell on a carnival-style test of strength. The stage itself was set up like a mix between a ’60s-style bachelor pad, a midway and a old-fashioned disco complete with beaded dancing cage.
There was a go-go dancer, dressed in classic “Hullabaloo” garb, as well as audience members who came up on stage to dance in the cage. And it was an extremely danceable night of songs. An up tempo version of the classic put down Alison segued into Smokey Robinson’s Tracks of My Tears. A speed guitar intro led into Strict Time, which showed Costello hadn’t moved far from his roots in the early British punk scene. I Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down,” “Pump It Up, a really rocking version of The Byrds’ hit So You Want to Be A Rock ‘n’ Roll Star and (What’s So Funny Bout) Peace Love and Understanding had the sold-out crowd on its feet and dancing most of the night.
Costello was showmanlike, generous and appreciative of an audience that always returned the compliment. After the opening set, he donned a top hat, grabbed a cane and mugged like a carnival barker while explaining how to make a song request.
He was always polite to the women who came up to dance, even when one was a little too into the hug, and went out in the audience several times to sing. Throughout the performance, he solicited singalongs and prowled the edge of the stage, looking out over the crowd as if to say, I hope you’re enjoying this as much as I am.
The one down side of the concert was the sound quality. The band was loud, sometimes to the point where it was muddy and words became distorted. With lyrics as good as anyone in rock, it seemed a shame not to be able to really hear them clearly.
Still, the volume lent a raw edge to the performance, an energy that can be missing from over-produced recordings. It’s closer to the origins of rock in cellar bars, pubs, and dances, where the music was defiant, loud and throbbing with a beat that went right through you and made you dance.